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Would You Want To Know Your Baby’s Gender At 7 Weeks?

Would You Want To Know Your Baby’s Gender At 7 Weeks?


A blood test is now available that would enable parents to learn the sex of their fetus at seven weeks. Even more, the results of the test are said to be “highly accurate” if the test is done correctly according to a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But the existence of such prenatal tests, and evidence for their accuracy, opens ethical floodgates and raises tough questions: What if parents are set on having a child of a certain gender (a boy, perhaps) but find out they are having a girl?

The blood test analyzes fetal DNA in a mother’s blood and can detect a child’s sex weeks before an ultrasound screening. It is noninvasive unlike amniocentesis which, along with other procedures, carries a small risk of miscarriage. The tests including Consumer Genetics’ “Pink or Blue” tests have been available online and in drug stores for years but their accuracy has not consistently been claimed by the manufacturers. They cost $250 and up; lab fees and shipping costs can add up about a hundred dollars more.

Another company, TrovaGene, is seeking to create a DNA test using urine as well as a test for Down syndrome. None of these tests are currently regulated by the FDA, as they are not used for medical purposes.

As the New York Times notes, such blood tests are “routinely” being used by European doctors in specific cases. London’s Great Ormond Street hospital allows parents to use the tests for male babies tho could have hemophilia.

[Doctors use the tests] to help expectant parents whose offspring are at risk for rare gender-linked disorders determine whether they need invasive and costly genetic testing. For example, Duchenne muscular dystrophy affects boys, but if the fetus is not the at-risk sex, such tests are unnecessary. But doctors in the United States generally have not prescribed the tests because they are unregulated and medical labs are not yet federally certified to use them.

That and other aspects of the pregnancy landscape could change as a result of the new study. The journal study analyzed reams of research on fetal DNA tests — 57 studies involving about 6,500 pregnancies — and found that carefully conducted tests could determine sex with accuracy of 95 percent at 7 weeks to 99 percent at 20 weeks.

The New York Times says that the companies do not sell the tests in China or India where a strong cultural preference for sons over daughters persists.

While sex selection is not considered a widespread objective in the United States, companies say that occasionally customers expressed that interest, and have been denied the test. A recent study of third pregnancies in the journal Prenatal Diagnosis found that in some Asian-American groups, more boys than girls are born in ratios that are “strongly suggesting prenatal sex selection,” the authors said.

At least one company, Consumer Genetics, which sells the Pink or Blue test, requires customers to sign a waiver saying they are not using the test for that purpose. “We don’t want this technology to be used as a method of gender selection,” said the company’s executive vice president, Terry Carmichael. Sex-determination tests are part of a new frontier of fetal DNA testing, which can be used to determine paternity and blood type, and is being used to develop early screening tests for genetic diseases like Down syndrome.

But what people will do with such a test is, of course, up to themselves, whatever they say. Autism, for instance, occurs in four times as many boys as girls; if a family knows is expecting a boy, and has reason to be concerned about that child being autistic (perhaps because the family has an autistic child), might they choose not to have the child?

The BBC quotes Dr Gillian Lockwood, medical director of Midland Fertility Services, as noting that, while “sex selection for social reasons is illegal in the UK,” the existence of the blood tests means that we’re in danger of being on “a slippery slope.” Now that medical experts are confirming the tests’ accuracy, are we already starting to slide down it?

Related Care2 Coverage

Should Sex-Selective IVF Be Allowed For Non-Medical Reasons?

Will Down Syndrome Disappear?

Should Data On Later Abortion for Deformities Be Made Public?

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Photo by kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop)

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3:01AM PDT on Aug 15, 2011

I have known MANY families in my life who kept having baby after baby - ones they couldn't afford - just to get a specific sex.

If it is to find out about a genetic desorder then yes otherwise no as this is very bad for all of us ...look at China or many asian countries...kill the girls and keep the boys....NOT good for a peaceful world!!

2:42AM PDT on Aug 15, 2011

Why not?

2:34AM PDT on Aug 15, 2011

Wow great technology... I would personally not mind waiting until baby is born. A friend of mine ended up with 5 boys trying for a girl. Haha. Its just something you cant order!

4:15PM PDT on Aug 14, 2011


4:02PM PDT on Aug 14, 2011

Yes I would like to know.

Boys are a lot more unhealthy than girls mainly because they have less of a change of avoiding genetic garbage.

Since I got beat ugly and decrepit with the DNA stick I'd like to have a heads up so I can better provide for my children.

I'm hoping we have nothing but girls, and the only thing they inherit from me is my intelligence/creativity.

2:30PM PDT on Aug 14, 2011

Interesting info.Thank you

11:55AM PDT on Aug 14, 2011

Hmm. while it would be kinda cool to find this out early on... IF it works... it'a almost more fun to wonder :)

8:08AM PDT on Aug 14, 2011

Thanks for the info

7:41AM PDT on Aug 14, 2011

Too bad that the pace of scientific advances is much more developed than the pace of human moral development. We still act impulsively, irrationally and downright idiotically, just as we have for the past twenty centuries....

1:19PM PDT on Aug 12, 2011

I can see wanting to find out the gender in advance if you're trying to avoid a gender-linked fatal disease or deformity (take Duchenne muscular dystrophy, for instance), but other than that, finding out the gender in advance just seems to serve the purpose of "pigeonholing" the kid before birth by getting all "boy" or "girl" stuff. Whatever happened to gender-neutral colors? I mean, blue can work for a girl too, and there's nothing wrong with green or yellow either-those will work for both genders! Fluffs and frills for girl babies really don't work too well with little babies-they're just something else for them to spit up on.

My husband and I have two girls, and I didn't want to know the gender in advance either time. I feel that it's like opening a Christmas present in July to find out early, and let's face it-even nowadays the ultrasound can screw up, or the baby can be "shy" and not reveal anything (Smart kid). It drove everybody else around me nuts, especially with the second one, but I stuck to my guns and we found out at birth (our older daughter, age 4 1/2 at the time, was present for her sister's birth and we gave her the job of announcing whether the baby was a boy or a girl).

If you want to find out in advance, knock yourself out. However, there's something to be said for going "old school" and waiting.

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